Joy to the World

“Let this holy building shake with joy.”

We heard these words at the Easter Vigil during the singing of the Exsultet or Easter Proclamation. Joy marks the Easter season. However, many circumstances in our world today and even in our personal lives make it difficult to find joy in the world.

War continues in the Holy Land and Ukraine. Catholics continue to be persecuted in Nicaragua. People’s self-reported feeling of unhappiness is skyrocketing, and suicide rates are on the rise. A personal illness, financial situation, or family conflict can erode joy from us very quickly.

As Christians, we refuse to allow external circumstances to lead to pessimism and hopelessness. The Lord Jesus has conquered sin and death. He is risen. As Pope Francis wrote in “Evangelii Gaudium” “The joy of the Gospel filled the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus.”

The Bible is a book about joy. John the Baptist leaps for joy in Elizabeth’s womb when he senses the presence of the Savior (Lk. 1: 44). Mary responds to Elizabeth’s greeting with, “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Lk. 1: 47). Before His passion, Jesus promises His disciples, “You will grieve, but your grief will become joy” (Jn. 16: 20).

What is the source of true, lasting joy?

Pope St. Paul VI once wrote, “Technological society has succeeded in multiplying the occasions of pleasure but finds great difficulty in giving birth to happiness. For happiness has its origin elsewhere: it is a spiritual thing. Money, comfort, hygiene, material security, etc., may often not be lacking, but nevertheless, despite these advantages, boredom, suffering, and sadness are frequent to be found supervening in the lives of many people.”

When we live a vibrant, and personal relationship with the Risen Lord, we stop relying on material possessions to bring joy and begin to possess a joy that no circumstance in our lives can take away.

What can I do if I lack joy in my life?

First, look closely at your relationship with Jesus. Is there an obstacle in the way? Can I deepen my closeness to Him through prayer, the Sacrament of Penance, reading Scripture, and participating fully in Mass?

Second, often the best self-care is selfless service. When we take the time to forget about ourselves and try to make life a bit more pleasant for others, it is remarkable how joy can be restored to our lives. Jesus tells us to lose ourselves and to love others as He has loved us.

Amazingly, our joy can be very contagious. Joy attracts attention. It makes people wonder, “What does that person have that I do not?” When we explain that our joy is not dependent on the circumstances of our lives but on the fact that the Lord is Risen, our joy becomes a kind of “gospel,” a proclamation of faith in Christ.

As a third-century man was anticipating death, he penned these last words to a friend: “It's a bad world, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret. They have found a joy which is a thousand times better than any pleasure of our sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They are masters of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people are the Christians – and I am one of them.”

Christmas is not the only time we can sing certain songs. During this Easter season, one song seems absolutely appropriate – “Joy to the World.”

By Monsignor Andrew Baker, rector of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Md.


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